A two-try blitz midway through the second half sealed visiting Bishops’ fate as Paarl Gym kept their local unbeaten record intact with a thrilling 34-32 win on Saturday.
Both sides can feel proud of their efforts in a game of enterprising rugby that could have gone either way. Gym’s unbeaten home record against their southern suburb rivals stretches to 20 years, but they know they were in for a fight for their lives from a side determined until the very end to end the losing streak.
In a contest featuring two of the top three ranked sides in the country, it was Gym who won the try-count five to two, three of them scored by left wing Conrad Loubser and, from Bishops point of view, three soft tries conceded.
Up 19-12 with 30 minutes to play, it looked as if the visitors were well on their way to a memorable victory until a couple of moments of lapses in concentration saw Gym storm back with three tries of their own, two in equal time to a penalty against to reclaim the lead 31-22.
Bishops piled on the pressure in the closing stages and were rewarded with their second try in the final moments, but will rue this day as one when they did everything right for most of the game until those sudden lapses in defence ended their hopes of nailing down the win.
World-rated referee Jonathan Kaplan blew this game and did so with authority as he dished out a big penalty-count against Gym in the first 30 minutes in the face of fierce tackling from the Bishops boys.
But Gym are a side that knows how to make the most of their scoring chances and needed only six minutes to open their account when quick recycle ball and a blindside backline move put Cristopher Bosch over in the corner. Willie Viljoen, who has kicked with aplomb during the past few weeks, missed the difficult conversion.
Bishops hit back with two penalties from the boot of fullback Tim Swiel to take a 6-5 lead through 15 minutes.
With much of the first-half battle fought out between two evenly-matched pack of forwards, it was always going to come down to the team who made the best of their attacking options, and Gym responded from a poor clearance kick from flyhalf Dillyn Leyds down centre field instead of an intended touch-finder which saw a counter attack launched with left wing Conrad Loubser going over for his first of three tries.
It was a jolting blow for Bishops after some good work in defence and the counter but they stuck to the task at hand manfully and, from pressure created at the breakdowns, were able to go through the phases and score a brilliant try dotted down by Leyds after a good feed by lock Cameron Doyle saw him make up for his earlier error, Swiel converting to give his side a 13-12 lead at half-time.
The second period produced free-flowing rugby from both sides that had the fair sized crowd in attendance marvelling at the skill levels from both backs and forwards, during which time the game hinged on a knife edge. But a soft try was offered up by Bishops after poor communication among the back resulted in a try for Gym No 8 Christiaan Smit, the tough nut driven over the line from the back of a maul after Gym had opted to kick a penalty from close out into touch 5m out, to level the scores at 19-19.
Bishops took back the lead a couple of minutes later from another penalty from Swiel (who kicked six from seven and a conversion), but the next 15 minutes saw Gym hit overdrive as they notched tries in double quick time scored by Loubser, to take a commanding lead entering the final 15 minutes.
Bishops could not recover in time, and while they did score in the dying seconds, they will feel somewhat gutted that this one got away.
‘I hope that’s exactly how the boys are feeling,’ said Bishops coach Dave Mallett. ‘We let this one get away from us by giving away three soft tries, something you can’t get away with when you’re playing a quality team like Gym.’
Gym coach Christoff Lötter praised his side for a brilliant effort.
‘We were up against a very good team and the boys put their bodies on the line to come away with a great win,’ he said. ‘I’m proud of the boys who did themselves and the school proud with an exciting brand of rugby that netted us five tries.’
By Mike de Bruyn (Weekend Argus)